Belief or Unbelief

April 4, 2021

Series: One Lord

All right, today we celebrate that a dead man is no longer dead. All right, when faced with the facts about Jesus, what choice will you make, belief or unbelief? And that’s the title for today’s lesson, belief or unbelief. And no matter your situation at this moment, Christian, not a Christian. Maybe you’ve grown up in the church, but you’re not yet a Christian. Maybe you’re backsliding, as they say, or you’ve lost most of your faith.

Agnostic, atheist. We all face a choice today and every day about Jesus. Do you believe that Jesus stone-Cold died and then he rose from the dead just a few days later? Do you believe this? It’s one thing to smile. It’s another thing to attend church or try to be a good person or even to call yourself a Christian. But it’s an entirely different ballgame to make Jesus the Lord and the God of your life if you really believe something.

Actions speak louder than words. There’s a life that backs that up. Belief or unbelief. This morning, let’s read about a person who faced the same choice. Let’s turn to Bible to John, Chapter 20.

John 20. That’s what we’re going to pick up reading this morning. And as we look at the context of John, Chapter 20, Jesus has just been nailed to the cross kill, placed in a tomb guarded heavily by the Roman Empire.

Jesus suffered terrible injustice, vicious taunting and torture, a humiliating public execution.

But the grave could not keep this man down, right? It was impossible for death to keep its hold on him. And with the miracle of all miracles, the greatest of miracles, Jesus rose from the dead and appeared to many eyewitnesses, including the apostles. And speaking of the apostles, let’s now right here in John, chapter 20 and verse 24. Now, Thomas called Didymus or the twin, one of the 12 was not with the disciples when Jesus came to visit them.

So the other disciples told Thomas, We’ve seen the Lord. But Thomas said to them, unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it. A week later, his disciples were in the house again and Thomas was with them. And though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, Peace be with you. Then he said to Thomas, Put your finger here, see my hands, reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.

Thomas said to him, My Lord and my God. Then Jesus told him, because you have seen me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed, and Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not even recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

So here in verse twenty four for whatever reason, Thomas misses out on the resurrected Jesus. He was not there for that first Easter Sunday, and when the boys catch up with them, they tell Thomas We’ve seen the master J.C. is alive. He’s hear, he’s back. But at this point, Thomas chooses not to believe. And so as many of you know, a legacy is born, doubting Thomas. And while Thomas does not believe it’s important to note, Thomas does tolerate his friend’s belief in the resurrection.

It’s not like he’s against it or anything. He tolerates it. You know, Thomas is religious. Thomas is a good guy. He’s still hanging out with the disciples. Thomas is still coming to family group every week.

But he is not a true believer in Jesus. And that could be any of us today. We can do good things, you can call yourself a Christian, you can hang around the church, especially on Easter, but that does not make you a true believer in Jesus. What do you really believe about Jesus today, because what you believe deep down about the resurrection will radically change the way you live, belief or unbelief? That’s the choice.

You see, Thomas he’s the committed pessimist. And I think for us, the older we get, it’s easy for us to get skeptical about the supernatural, we start coming to a position of, well, I think I’ve seen that before. I’ve never seen that before. It’s going to take a lot of convincing on my part. That’s what happens when we get older. But none of us started this way. Think back to your childhood. Think about the children that came up here and saying to us today, as a child, I know you believed in love. Even though you can’t really see love, you can’t really touch love, but you know supernaturally that love exists.

I know as a child, you cried, you laughed, you dreamed of the supernatural. As a child your heart was wide open to the possibilities. You wanted to believe in something, you wanted to believe in someone. You believed that there was something out there that was bigger than you that was magical. You just couldn’t explain but you knew it was there. As a child it was easier to imagine an invisible God that that loves you, that protects you and knows you personally. But now, as an adult, cynicism, skepticism disguised cleverly as wisdom starts to sneak in and steal our idealism.

It takes away our ability to believe. And I think we often become “unless I” type of people. We become an unless I type of person, just like Thomas, here’s what I mean. In verse twenty five, the disciples came to Thomas saying that we’ve seen the Lord. But Thomas said, unless I see it, unless I see the nail marks, unless I put my finger where the nails were, unless I put my hand in his side, I’m just not going to believe it unless I see it, unless I touch it, unless I get answers from a source that I trust, I will not believe it.

And some say that Thomas speaks for the whole world when he states give me proof about Jesus and then I’ll follow.

But the more I think about that, the more I’m not so sure that Thomas speaks for most of the world, at least for me and from what I’ve seen. I think our mindset is more like this. You show me the facts about Jesus and I’ll find another excuse not to follow him. And if I had a dollar for every excuse I’ve made and continue to make, not to completely follow Jesus, I would be a millionaire. Unless Jesus talked to me personally, I won’t do it, I won’t believe.

Unless I have every Bible question answered I will not become a Christian. Unless I know for sure I won’t get hurt, unless Jesus fixes the church, unless you prove to me I won’t get burned out again. Unless I. Unless unless I. I will not believe I will not commit. I will not make Jesus, my Lord. I will not open my heart. What’s your unless I excuse this morning.

Bottom line, Jesus rose from the dead. You find someone else that’s done that. The empty tomb is a historic fact. That cuts through all the excuses, that demands a response from us belief or unbelief. After Jesus rose from the dead, more than 500 witnesses saw him alive. Think about that. Put that in the modern context. If someone died and then rose from the dead today in downtown Orlando and it happened on Orange Drive and the Orlando Sentinel was there, and Wesh Channel two was there and they produced five hundred separate witnesses who could attest to the fact that this person rose from the dead.

They all saw it. Five hundred. That would be overwhelming proof.

In contrast, I think sometimes we believe what we want to believe or we don’t want to believe. Today, we believe something if one person reposts some bogus story from God knows where on Facebook. We believe one report on Fox News, we believe one video on YouTube. But this still, two thousand years later. This five hundred witnesses saw the risen Jesus belief or unbelief. And if you do believe, what will you do about. Because after the resurrection of Jesus, these 500 men and women, all right, they went from locking their doors and hiding to becoming the most powerful creatures that forever changed the world.

The apostles, they suffered persecution and were killed for the historic fact of the resurrection. As I stated earlier, if you really believe in the resurrection, you will live a radically different life. The resurrection is jet engine fuel for your soul. It gets us through the past year and what we’ve gone through, it’s living for the resurrection. It’s springtime now in Orlando, and I love it. I hope you’re taking time during this church service just to look around at the setting.

Look up, look down, look all over the place, enjoy it, the weather. All of nature points to the resurrection, especially if you travel north. But we get it in Orlando as well. It’s the theme of the song that the children were singing earlier. Blue skies, rainbows, green grass, flowers, all blooming in springtime, tall mountains, green valleys. All of this, if we look at it, gives us confidence that Jesus is alive and well today.

If we look around at what was once dead in winter, now appears alive and beautiful, we take it for granted. Trees that seem dead now come back to life with bright green leaves, flowers that once withered away and we’re falling to the ground, buried into the ground in the dirt left for dead. These flowers now rise again to new life and glorious colors, even the slimy, dirty caterpillar. Disappears into a cocoon. And then somehow some way experiences, this supernatural metamorphosis becomes completely liquefied, then changes miraculously, and then all of a sudden they now soar and flutter around us as these incredible butterflies majestic in their flight.

This happens all the time in nature, and we take it for granted, if we open our eyes, all of nature cries out to believe the miracle of resurrection.

I think as well about the miracle of childbirth. We’ve had multiple babies born in our church recently. If you have a little small little baby, just stand up. I want to see some babies. We need some living, breathing illustrations here. Hold that baby up like Simba. You know, a Tyler and Molly have baby Lucy. Trisha and Jordan bishop had Parker, David and Susan Mattox have baby Simon right there. Look at these little babies amazing.

And I know before Lucy Owen’s birth, my wife and several other women threw Molly a baby shower. This is very normal. And at the shower, friends and family gave the Owens, many gifts, including diapers, clothes, lots of baby items that wasn’t there in the shower. But I can attest to this. I didn’t hear of anyone, Christian or not Christian, who refused to believe a new life was about to happen. No one said, Molly, I’m going to pull back on my gifts.

I see you’re registered over here at Target. I’m not getting anything yet, Molly, because it’s too hard to believe that suddenly a new life, a human being, can come out of your body. Yeah, I’ve never met anyone on Earth who thinks this way.

In fact, babies are born all the time. A half million babies statistically will be born today around the world. More than 300 babies were born in the last minute alone. Three hundred in the last minute. It happens all the time and that’s the miracle. Blaise Pascal is one of history’s greatest mathematicians and philosophers. I am not a disciple of his. I would have no idea what he would be talking about. He’s that smart. This guy has this guy has so much brains that a triangle is named after him.

Pascal’s Triangle. So I’ve lost some of you. And you know what I already posted? I bet he’s a smart guy. Blaise Pascal and the great Laz Pascal said this about the resurrection. What reason have they for saying that we cannot rise from the dead and he’s speaking only of Jesus, but those who follow Jesus? What reason have they for saying we cannot rise from the dead? What is more difficult to be born or to rise again? That what has never been, should be, or that what has been should be again.

Is it more difficult to come into existence than to return to it? Habit makes the one appear easy to us want to have it makes the other seem impossible. In other words, if we so easily believe a new life at birth, then why is it such a stretch to believe that the dead can rise again?

Let’s reverse twenty six. A week later, his disciples were in the house again and Thomas was with them. And though the doors were locked. Jesus came and stood among them and said, Peace be with you. And he said, The Thomas, put your finger here. See my hands, reach out your hand and put it in my side. Stop doubting and believe. Thomas said to him, My Lord and my God. And this is fascinating because the doors are locked.

Jesus’ quite a locksmith. The Lord Jesus walked right into the house and says peace. And that’s the power of Jesus and the resurrection.

He can live in two dimensions at once. He’s in the world, but He’s not of the world. And not only that here, no explanation is needed for Jesus. He knows what Thomas is thinking. Supernaturally, he’s overheard the stipulations that Thomas is making for belief. It’s the same with us. Jesus knows our hearts. Jesus knows your heart. He knows our favorite excuses. Immediately he tells Thomas, Come on, man, what’s what’s stopping you?

Don’t you know me? Put your finger where the nails were touched, where they stabbed me with a spear, then wait for it. Here comes a life saving ruby. Stop doubting and believe. And these words still echo to us in the 21st century. Stop doubting and believe, and the NIV translation is accurate here, but it lacks the punch of the original Greek text. A more direct translation would be Thomas do not be unfaithful. Instead, be faithful.

In other words, I’ve raised from the dead, I’ve done it, no more excuses, stop doubting me, show yourself to be a believer. Thomas must make a choice and the same goes for us. Will you be a believer or an unbeliever? And will your life back that up? And the stakes here cannot be any higher. In verse 31, Jesus tells us belief in Jesus means eternal life in heaven through life, salvation. But revelation 21:8 points that unbelief in Jesus means hell in a fiery lake of burning sulfur. In Verse Twenty eight we don’t have any record here of Thomas actually touching the wounds of Jesus. We have some paintings out there that people have made, but it never says he actually even touched it. I don’t think there’s any need for it at this point. He’s simply overwhelmed by the evidence he’s letting go evidence there that demands faith, that demands worship.

Here’s Jesus, crucified, risen from the dead. Here’s Jesus that knows the inner thoughts, the hurts, the doubts of Thomas. And this brings a radical shift in his heart, his mind and his life.

Thomas models the response God is looking for from us today, my lord and my God, Jesus is Lord.

For 20 centuries Jesus has been the dominant figure in Western culture, 20 centuries. We’re still talking about this. We’re still amazed by this. It’s still changing. Lives as we speak is from the birth of Jesus that most of the human race dates its calendars.

It’s by the name of Jesus unfortunately, that millions curse and it’s in the name of Jesus that millions pray to. Jesus is not just a good teacher. Jesus is Lord. Jesus is not just one of many ways to get to heaven. Jesus is the only way to get to heaven.

What will you do with Jesus today? Belief or unbelief? Is Jesus truly the Lord of your life? We must say, as Thomas did long ago, my Lord and my God. In verse 29 Jesus finishes his challenge to Thomas, and I believe he speaks to us today, because you have seen me, you have believed. Lesser those who have not seen and yet believe. That’s us, that’s our opportunity, and I think one of the hardest things for us, one of the hardest things for me, when I first became a Christian almost twenty one years ago, all the way up to now, one of the hardest things is to face this reality.

Do I really believe that Jesus rose from the dead? Is all of this real? One of the hardest things is to stop pretending about Jesus. This is no joke. I hope we’re not playing church. The stakes are high. Eternal life is at stake. Real life, life to the full is right in front of us. Get real. Get humble if you consider yourself young or old or anything in between. Ask questions today. Be willing to be taught all over again about Jesus.

I’m so thankful for what Mattie shared and the humility it must have taken her to know about Jesus but then to come back and go, OK, do I really know about Jesus and what do I really believe? And come to a complete saving faith in the risen Lord. The stakes are high. Ask questions, get gut level, honest with yourself, with others, and what the Bible really teaches.

The empty tomb of Jesus is a historic fact. Please take action, let’s study the Bible together. We want to help. There are men and women around you that will humbly help you. They will meet you where you’re at and model the love of Jesus. Don’t miss the chance. Choose believe over unbelief. Choose to believe in the resurrection of Jesus. Choose to believe that everyone that follows Jesus until they die will never die. And we will resurrect in Jesus as well our God.

He is alive. And our best days as Christians are right in front of us. Thank you.

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